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The Ebola crisis is far from over

Flickr- Eduardo Fonseca Arraes

Fact: The Ebola crisis is far from over.

Ebola remains a global health threat until Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea are completely free of Ebola transmission.

Today, we are celebrating the impact of USAIDs work on the ground in Ebola-affected countries, and calling on USAID to continue leading the fight against Ebola while committing to take an active role in West African recovery.

With Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea still affected by the deadly virus, we need to continue to drive the international response towards the goal of reaching zero Ebola cases. With proper practices and strong international support, these three countries CAN and WILL end Ebola.

However, an Ebola-free West Africa is not the finish line.

While health professionals, local leaders, and relief workers fight to stamp out Ebola, we need to use this moment to consider how we can act to help these countries recover while addressing the flaws and filling the gaps that allowed the crisis to spiral out of control.

Ebolas toll on West Africa is harrowing.

The cost: 10,000 lives lost, 25,000 infected, and countless lives irreversibly impacted.

In addition, Ebolas impact on the economic, social, agricultural, and structural health of Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea has been massive.

Strengthening Health Care Systems and Supporting Community Health Workers

After reaching zero cases, we must commit to strengthening health systems in Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea to ensure that these countries are better prepared to quickly, efficiently, and boldly deliver care and respond to public health emergencies. We can do this by training, equipping, and deploying Community Health Workers to fill gaps and fortify public health in West Africa.

Strengthening health systems means more community health workers, more hospitals,  more medical schools, more training centers, more doctors.

These resources will allow these countries to increase access to care and speed up response, shutting down future outbreaks before they spread.

The Impact of Strong Health Care Systems

Supporting and investing in community health workers in these three Ebola-affected countries may not seem like a clear solution (or the easiest concept to wrap your head around), but if you take a moment to consider the state of health are in West Africa, youll understand why more doctors, more hospitals, and more health care workers can make all the difference, and stop the next global health emergency.

Before the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone, Guinea, and Liberia, all among the worlds poorest countries, had only recently emerged from dictatorship, years of civil war and civil unrest that left the state of health care severely damaged, destroyed, or simply non-existent.

The United States has 245 doctors per 100,000 people; Before Ebola hit, Guinea had ten.

Sierra Leone had two.

Liberia had only 50 doctors treating patients before the outbreak, and one nurse for every 35,000 Liberians.

At the height of the outbreak, treatment clinics in Monrovia, Liberias capital, were not only filled beyond capacity, but were often running without proper sanitation, electricity, or running water.

Imagine, treating one of the worlds deadliest known viruses without being able to wash your hands.

Taking Action to empower, support, and strengthen West Africa

Taking action will ensure that the leaders of the international response and recovery effort work to improve these unacceptable numbers and conditions plaguing Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia.

Throughout the progression of global response to the outbreak, USAID has been one of these leaders.

There is no doubt that USAID has consistently stepped up in the response. Their team has built medical centers, brought quality medical workers and care to affected areas, and provided burial teams and important training to contain the virus. USAID has been the leader of the United Statesdirect intervention in West Africa and an integral part of the global response to the Ebola outbreak.

We are ready to see and share the impact of USAIDs Ebola relief work while ensuring that the agency steps up in the important task of helping all three countries deploy community health workers to strengthen public health systems.

Guided by the mission of supporting these countriesefforts to build their resilienceto Ebola, USAID is uniquely equipped and qualified to support Ebola recovery through a focus on building the number of community health workers in West Africa.

You can call on USAID to continue their leadership in the Ebola response and recovery by tweeting and telling them that we need an enduring commitment to all Sierra Leoneans, Liberians, and Guineans. Go to the Take Action button on the side of this content and help fortify the global response to Ebola.

For the thousands of people who lost their lives because of the Ebola outbreak, lets make sure that there are systems in place and brave community health care workers equipped to stop the preventable from ever happening again.